Reigning champion Steven Hinton has a new ride, and the smoke from the California wildfire raging in Yosemite cleared just in time to give him a chance to practice a little Voodoo, pushing the P-51 by that name to 492 mph in qualifying at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev.
The fiftieth edition of the event is expected to draw a crowd of 200,000 or more during the week, which will feature both the fastest pistons on the planet, and appearances by a jet-powered daredevil: Yves Rossy, the Jetman follows up his crowd-pleasing appearance at EAA AirVenture with several flights scheduled during race week, tumbling from a helicopter to fly with tiny turbine engines and a wing strapped to his back.
As for the racing, Hinton posted the fastest qualifying time in Voodoo, but may have more speed in store. The crew set to work installing a different engine after the qualifying heats, and more speed is expected. Hinton won last year’s race flying another P-51, Strega, which has dominated in recent years and now competes with Matt Jackson at the controls.
Racing will continue through Sept. 15, and the FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction to keep traffic clear of Reno/Stead Airport during the event.
Smoke from the raging wildfire that has scorched a large swath of Yosemite National Park had blanketed portions of Nevada in recent weeks, cutting visibility in Reno to just more than a mile at times. A high-pressure system shifted the winds from south to west, clearing the air just in time for pilots to practice for the event.